These are the words of the new Director-General of Malawi’s Anti-Corruption Bureau, Martha Chizuma, at Monday’s launch of a new report entitled The Role of Corruption in Enabling Wildlife and Forest Crime in Malawi.
Lilongwe Wildlife Trust co-authored the report, which was commissioned by the Malawi Parliamentary Conservation Caucus and funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service via ICCF. Other authors included Brighton Kumchedwa, the Director of National Parks and Wildlife, and Dr Clement Chilima, the Director of the Department of Forestry.
Combatting corruption in these sectors is a key priority during my tenure
Martha Chizuma, the newly appointed Director-General of the Anti-Corruption Bureau, has vowed to target corruption linked with illegal trades in wildlife and forest products.
“Wildlife and forest crime have the hallmarks of any other organised criminal activity – money laundering, violence, and corruption. Persons responsible for corrupting public officers will be pursued vigorously and the proceeds of their crimes will be confiscated. Public officers involved in this illicit trade will not be spared either.”
She continued, “Combatting corruption in these sectors is a key priority during my tenure. We cannot be bystanders to the destruction of our nation’s natural heritage, upon which we rely for our prosperity and our very survival. We all have a moral duty to do what we can in whatever walk of life we find ourselves in.”
Chizuma made the comments at the launch of a 60-page report that analysed the role of corruption in enabling wildlife and forest crime in Malawi.
It was commissioned by the Malawi Parliamentary Conservation Caucus and funded by the US Forests and Wildlife Services via ICCF, with technical support from Lilongwe Wildlife Trust. Hon. Werani Chilenga, co-chair of the Malawi Parliamentary Conservation Caucus and Chair of the Natural Resources Parliamentary Committee, said:
“Corruption is a serious crime, and those individuals who don’t resist the temptation of ‘dirty money’ ultimately rob from us all. We need to stamp out corruption throughout the chain, from the police officers who wave the charcoal trucks through the roadblocks, to the shipping agent who clears the container of ivory, to the court clerk who alters paperwork.”
The timing of this publication is also pertinent given current national outrage on the wider topic of corruption. Malawi slipped further down global rankings on the Corruptions Perception Index last year. In a recent address to the nation, Head of State, H.E. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, said:
“There is no Government Ministry, Department, or Agency where the culture of impunity for wastage, misappropriation, and theft is not entrenched…we cannot afford to deal with corruption selectively by focusing on the tip of the iceberg. It is the whole system that is corrupt and therefore it is the whole system we must clean up”.
The recommendations were shared with Members of Parliament, government agencies and the media. Brighton Kumchedwa, co-author of the report and Director for the Department of National Parks & Wildlife, said:
“The illicit trades in products such as ivory, pangolin, and rhino horn are controlled by international organised criminal syndicates who cannot operate without the support of corrupt individuals who operate throughout the trafficking chain. Multi-agency collaboration is therefore key to disrupting such activity. We are fully committed to working together with the Anti-Corruption Bureau to instigate the recommendations laid out in this report.”
The illicit charcoal trade has been of particular concern, because it is driving Malawi’s rates of deforestation to catastrophic levels. Dr Clement Chilima, also a co-author of the report and the Director of the Department of Forestry, added:
“The Department of Forestry is similarly committed to supporting the recommendations of this report. Supply chains are increasingly controlled by illicit trafficking syndicates operating in a range of sectors. This is a fight that we, as a department, cannot win alone, and I thank the multiple government agencies, from the Anti-Corruption Bureau through to the Malawi Police Service who are stepping up to help save our forests.”